Study Finds More Negative Sentiments About Pasir Gudang Health Crisis

Citrine One says the federal and Johor state governments must better address valid health concerns.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 7 — More negative than positive comments were posted on social media about both Pasir Gudang health incidents this year, a communications consultancy’s study found.

Citrine One’s study on the March and June events found that about 30 per cent of 63,686 mentions on various social media platforms were negative, higher than 21 per cent positive sentiment, while neutral sentiment comprised almost half at 49 per cent. 

The firm observed that Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin seemed to “neutralise” the first health incident in Pasir Gudang, Johor, in which the dumping of chemical waste into Sungai Kim Kim polluted the air, with her immediate action to resolve the issue.

“This shows a minister’s engagement and efficiency in handling the public when crisis hits do make a deep impact on the credibility and reputation of the government’s performance.

“However, we were surprised YB Yeo did not react as fast in the second incident, creating a slew of criticisms in managing the crisis from a communications and PR perspective when Minister of Housing and Local [Government] retracted her statement on the cause of the second incident without verification with the Johor state government,” Ivlynn Yap, managing partner and crisis communications lead counsel of Citrine One, said in a statement.

The second wave of breathing difficulties and nausea that swept Pasir Gudang schools since June 20 has triggered public anger in Johor, with 100 people holding a protest inside a stadium in Johor Baru last Sunday. 

Johor Mentri Besar Dr Sahruddin Jamal then apologised to Pasir Gudang residents over the latest health situation.

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin initially claimed that the second health incident was triggered because hazardous waste from the March 7 incident had not been disposed off completely, but she later clarified that the second incident was not linked to the Sungai Kim Kim pollution case.

Citrine One found various questions flooding social media about the Pasir Gudang health crisis, but authorities have yet to clarify the cause of the latest incident.

Among the questions sighted included: “What were the types of pollutants that were thrown into the river?”, “What types of side effects should Pasir Gudang victims expect from the pollution?”, and “What is the name of company implicated in the incident?”.

“Even though we observed actions taken by the state government were acceptable, it did not provide mid and long term solutions to assure the community and people of Pasir Gudang, especially those affected, that there will be no more recurrence,” Yap said. 

“Both the federal and state government need to up their ante in addressing valid health concerns in the mid and long term as the victims and [the] public have voiced their constant worry on their health, safety and environment.” 

Citrine One told federal and state government teams to centralise communications on any crisis to avoid issuing contradictory statements.

“It is essential for the government to have a crisis center put in place to better control the details and news to be shared to the media and public,” Yap said.

The firm also urged authorities to publicly share any action that they take. 

“By being transparent and truthful, the government will gain public trust and support.”

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